As the head of a large industrial construction company, I spend a lot of time at construction sites, most in remote little towns that are difficult to travel to. For 10 years, that meant at least three days away from my family to visit a job site for one day.
About three years ago, all of that changed. I earned my private pilot’s license and got a single-engine airplane. Now I travel much more productively. My staff and I can visit multiple job sites in different states in a single day. What was an eight-hour drive is less than two hours away. What was three days of travel can be done in one workday. In addition, my time spent on the job site is more productive, and I can leave when the work is done, rather than rush to make a flight.
Most people don’t realize that of the thousands of airports across the country, the vast majority do not have commercial airline service. General aviation makes it possible to do business in small, rural communities across the country. All told, general aviation in Colorado accounts for $2.4 billion in economic activity each year. For many towns, small airports represent literal lifelines, providing not only jobs, and business opportunities, but emergency services, access to medical care, law enforcement, search and rescue, firefighting support, etc.
Some politicians don’t seem to understand how important general aviation really is to communities across the country. Some have even suggested removing congressional oversight of the aviation system in favor of a private board, meaning that funding of these smaller airports would be at risk. And, such a system would be funded by harmful user fees which would disproportionately affect small and mid-sized businesses and farms that rely on general aviation.
Fortunately, many of our local officials have recognized the vital importance of general aviation and local airports for Colorado and the nation. Let’s build on this success, and ensure that our aviation system continues to serve communities of all sizes.
Stephen Brague is president of Casey Industrial Inc. in Westminster and a member of the Alliance for Aviation Across America.